The Politics of Christmas in the Age of Trump

Republican Presidential Candidates Speak At Values Voter SummitBy Will O’Brien

Among the many manifestations of his project to “make America great again,” President Trump has frequently and pompously declared that “We will be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” When he spoke at last fall’s Values Voters Summit, this vow garnered the most boisterous applause. For many conservative Christians, Trump is the conquering hero who waged battle against secularism in the annual “war on Christmas” – and finally won the war. Like many Trumpisms, this would be simply pathetic were it not for the fact that it is part of a treacherous national vision. Continue reading

Triumphant

jesus christ.jpgBy Will O’Brien, Alternative Seminary, Philadelphia, PA

At Easter services yesterday, our congregation celebrated the resurrection with the requisite Easter hymns.  Though a few lesser known ones were thrown in the mix, we indulged in many of the great soul-stirring choruses:  “Up from the grave he arose,…” “Christ Our Lord Is Risen Today,…”

On a personal aesthetic note, I don’t bear a lot of fondness for some of these old classics, and their theology occasionally rubs me the wrong way.  But on this particular Easter Sunday, I was struck by how these hymns are almost without exception imbued with a brash and bold tone of triumphalism.  We hailed the mighty and exalted king.  In illustrious melody, we sang of glorious victory over foes (namely sin, death, and despair) vanquished and conquered. Continue reading

Lent with Howard Thurman

thurman.jpgBy Will O’Brien, Alternative Seminary, Philadelphia, PA

This Lent, I have using as a meditation guide Howard Thurman’s classic Jesus and the Disinherited. This book and other writings of Thurman, an African American scholar, theologian, and activist whom Vincent Harding called our “Black prophet-mystic,” were a spiritual taproot of the civil rights movement and continue to animate many people of faith who hunger and thirst for justice. Just in the first pages, his writing has revealed itself to be an unsettlingly relevant text for this season of repentance and metanoia.

Early in the book, Thurman recounts a visit to India in 1935 – a delegation of American students on a “pilgrimage of friendship.” One day, the principle of a Law College in Ceylon personally asked Thurman to have coffee. He posed a pointed question, addressing Thurman as an African American Christian: “What are you doing here?” Continue reading